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seen all this great multitude ? behold, I will deliver it into thine hand this day, and thou shalt know that I am the Lord.” Who can wonder enough at this unweariable mercy of God? After the fire and rain fetched miraculously from heaven, Ahab had promised much, performed nothing, yet again will God bless and solicit him with victory: one of those prophets, whom he persecuted to death, shall comfort his dejection with the news of deliverance and triumph. Had this great work been wrought without premonition, either chance, or Baal, or the golden calves had carried away the thanks. Beforehand, therefore, shall Ahab know both the author and the means of his victory; God for the author, the two hundred and thirty-two young men of the princes for the means; what are these for the vanguard, and seven thousand Israelites for the main battle, against the troops of three and thirty kings, and as many centuries of Syrians as Israel had single soldiers ? An equality of number had taken away the wonder of the event; but now, the God of hosts will be confessed in this issue, not the valour of men. How indifferent is it with thee, O Lord, to save by many or by few,-to destroy many or few! A world is no more to thee than a man; how easy is it for thee to. enable us to be more than conquerors over principalities and powers ; to subdue spiritual wickedness to flesh and blood! Through thee we can do great things; yea, we can do all things through thee that strengthenest us. Let us not want faith, we are sure there can be no want in thy power or mercy.
There was nothing in Benhadad's pavilions, but drink, and surfeit, and jollity, as if wine should make way for blood. Security is the certain usher of destruction. We never have so much cause to fear, as when we fear nothing. This handful of Israel dares look out, upon the prophet's assurance, to the vast host of Benhadad. It is enough for that proud pagan to sit still, and command amongst his cups.
To defile their fingers with the blood of so few, seemed no mastery; that act would be inglorious on the part of the victors: more easily might they bring in three heads of dead enemies, than one alive. Imperiously enough, therefore, doth this boaster, out of his chair of state and ease, command, " Whether they be come out for peace, take them alive, or whether they be come out for war, take them alive :" there needs no more, but, “Take them ;” this field is won with a word. Oh the vain and ignorant presumptions of wretched men, that will be reckoning without against their Maker!
Every Israelite kills his man; the Syrians flee, and cannot run away from death : Benhadad and his kings are more beholden to their horses than to their gods, or themselves, for life and safety ; else they had been either taken or slain, by those whom they commanded to be taken. How easy
is it for him that made the heart to fill it with terror and consternation, even where no fear is! Those whom God hath destined to slaughter, he will smite ; neither needs he any other enemy or executioner, than what he finds in their own bosom: we are not the masters of our own courage or fears ; both are put into us by that over-ruling power that created us. Stay now, O stay, thou great king of Syria, and take with thee those forgotten handfuls of the dust of Israel ; thy gods will do so to thee and more also, if thy followers return without their vowed burthen. Learn now of the despised king of Israel, from henceforth not to sound the triumph before the battle, not to boast thyself in the girding on of thine harness, as in the putting off
. I hear not of either the public thanksgiving or amendment of Ahab. Neither danger nor victory can change him from himself. Benhadad and he, though enemies, agree in unrepentance; the one is no more moved with mercy, than the other with judgment: neither is God any changeling in his proceedings towards both: his judgment shall still follow the Syrian, his mercy Israel: mercy, both in forewarning and re-delivering Ahab; judgment, in overthrowing Benhadad. The prophet of God comes again, and both foretels the intended re-encounter of the Syrian, and advises the care and preparation of Israel; “Go strengthen thyself, and mark, and see what thou doest ; for at the return of the year, the king of Syria will come up against thee.” God purposeth the deliverance of Israel, yet may not they neglect their fortifications: the merciful intentions of God towards them may not make them careless: the industry and courage of the Israelites fall within the degree of their victory. Security is the bane of good success. It is no contemning of a foiled enemy; the shame of a former disgrace and miscarriage whets his valour, and sharpens it to revenge. No power is so dreadful as that which is recollected from an overthrow.
The hostility against the Israel of God may sleep, but will hardly die. If the Aramites sit still, it is but till they be fully ready for an assault; time will show that their cessation was only for their advantage. Neither is it otherwise with our spiritual adversaries; sometimes their onsets are intermitted ; they tempt not always, they always hate us; their forbearance is not out of favour, but attendance of opportunity. Happy are we, if out of a suspicion of their silence, we can as busily prepare for their resistance, as they do for our impugnation.
As it is a shame to be beaten, so yet the shame is less by how much the victor is greater; to mitigate the grief and indignation of Benhadad's foil, his parasites ascribe it to gods, not to men; a human power could no more have vanquished him, than a divine power could by him be resisted : “their gods are gods of the hills.” Ignorant Syrians that name gods and confine them, varying their deities according to situations: they saw that Samaria, whence they were repelled, stood upon the hill of Shemer; they saw the temple of Jerusalem stood upon mount Sion; they knew it usual with the Israelites to sacrifice in their high places, and perhaps they had heard of Elijah's altar upon mount Carmel, and now they sottishly measure the effects of the power by the place of the worship, as if he, that was omnipotent on the hill, were impotent in the valley. What doltish conceits doth blind Paganism frame to itself of a Godhead! As they have many gods, so finite; every region, every hill, every dale, every stream hath their several gods, and each so knows his own bounds, that he dares not offer to encroach upon the other; or if he do, buys it with loss. Who would think that so gross blockishness should find harbour in a reasonable soul ? A man doth not alter with his station ; he that wrestled strongly upon the hill, loseth not his force in the plain ; all places find him alike active, alike valorous : yet these barbarous Aramites shame not to imagine that of God, which they would blush to affirm of their own champions. Superstition infatuates the heart out of measure ; neither is there any fancy so absurd or monstrous, which credulous infidelity is not ready to entertain with applause.
In how high scorn doth God take it, to be thus basely over-valued by rude heathen! This very misopinion concerning the God of Israel shall cost the Syrians a shameful and perfect destruction; they may call a council of war, and lay their heads together, and change their kings into captains, and the hills into valleys, but they shall find more graves in the plains than in the mountains. This very misprision of God shall make Ahab, though he were more lewd, victorious: a hundred thousand Syrians shall fall in one day by those few hands of Israel ; and a dead wall in Aphek, to whose shelter they fled, shall revenge God upon the rest that remained. The stones in the wall shall rather turn executioners, than a blasphemous Aramite shall escape unrevenged !
So much doth the jealous God hate to be robbed of his glory, even by ignorant pagans whose tongues might seem no slander. That proud head of Benhadad, that spoke such big words of the dust of Israel, and swore by his gods that he would kill and conquer, is now glad to hide itself in a blind hole of Aphek; and now, instead of questioning the power of the God of Israel, is glad to hear of the mercy of the kings of Israel; “Behold now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings ; let us, I pray thee, put sackcloth on our loins, and ropes on our heads, and go out to the king of Israel; peradventure he will save thy life.”
There can be no more powerful attractive of humble submission, than the intimation and conceit of mercy; we do at once fear, and hate the inexorable. This is it, O Lord, that allures us to thy throne of grace, the knowledge of the grace of that throne ; with thee is mercy and plenteous redemption : thine hand is open before our mouths, before our hearts. If we did not see thee smile
upon suitors, we durst not press to thy footstool. Behold now, we know that the king of heaven, the God of Israel, is a merciful God; let us put sackcloth upon our loins, and strew ashes upon our heads, and go meet the Lord God of Israel, that he may save our souls.
How well doth this habit become insolent and blasphemous Benhadad and his followers, a rope and sackcloth! A
rope for a crown, sackcloth for a robe! Neither is there less change in the tongue, “ Thy servant Benhadad saith, I pray thee let me live : even now the king of Israel said to Benhadad, “ My lord, O king, I am thine ; tell my lord the king, all that thou didst send for to thy servant, I will do.” Now Benhadad sends to the king of Israel, “Thy servant Benhadad saith, I pray thee let me live." He that was erewhile a lord and king, is now a servant ; and he that was a servant to the king of Syria is now his lord : he that would blow away all Israel in dust,